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Qld hit hard by Qantas stoush -

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Qld hit hard by Qantas stoush

The World Today - Wednesday, 25 June , 2008 12:45:00

Reporter: Annie Guest

TANYA NOLAN: The stoush between Qantas and its engineers is creating unwelcome trouble for the
beleaguered tourism industry.

More than 30 flights have been cancelled around the country as the airline and its workers remain
locked in a stand-off over a pay dispute.

And it comes just weeks after Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin announced cuts to their flights.

Queensland is suffering the deepest cuts, and its tourism industry is appealing to Qantas and
engineers to resolve their differences before they inflict more pain.

Annie Guest reports from Brisbane.

ANNIE GUEST: Eight cancelled plane flights doesn't sound like a lot but those Brisbane flights have
tourism operators sweating.

Daniel Gschwind is the Chief Executive of the Queensland Tourism Industry Council.

DANIEL GSCHWIND: We are very concerned, of course because the flights in and out of our
destinations are the pipeline for visitors, for business travellers to reach destinations and any
disruption to that discourages people to travel. It inconveniences people - creates a bad
experience and a bad impression.

ANNIE GUEST: All up, Qantas has cancelled more than 30 flights nationwide, blaming stop work
meetings by aircraft engineers.

No time is a good time to cancel flights but these cuts come as tourism operators in Queensland are
feeling particularly vulnerable.

They believe the Sunshine State is already set to lose millions of tourism dollars because of
permanent reductions in flights brought on by rising fuel costs. They were announced in recent
weeks.

Daniel Gschwind again.

DANIEL GSCHWIND: It also shakes further the confidence of travellers who may be thinking of booking
a trip, booking a holiday. They will certainly delay this and possibly postpone them all together
and that is not something that we want to see in a situation where the industry is already
struggling to maintain its momentum.

ANNIE GUEST: Well, in terms of those problems, Queensland's leading tourist destinations have
recently learnt about cuts in flights by the three major airlines servicing places like Cairns and
the Whitsundays. Just how much harder will this latest problem make it for the industry?

DANIEL GSCHWIND: Well, it certainly doesn't help. It makes it worse for certain and we want to make
sure that as I said, we control at least those things that we can have an influence over. We manage
them well and obviously industrial relations are one of the areas.

ANNIE GUEST: Qantas says that it is facing an enormous rise in fuel prices and can't pay those
engineers what they want to be paid. Should Qantas be giving ground?

DANIEL GSCHWIND: I don't want to take sides in the argument.

ANNIE GUEST: The aircraft engineers have been in dispute with Qantas for the past 18 months over
their demand for a five per cent wage increase.

And despite this week's disruption to flights, Qantas management says it won't give in to the
union's demands.

The dispute has drawn criticism from the Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh.

ANNA BLIGH: Our tourism industry here in Queensland and frankly in other parts of Australia are
going through really tough times. The jobs of people who work in organisations like Qantas are
dependent on us having high visitation rates. Now is not the time to be putting that at risk.

ANNIE GUEST: But the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association is essentially unmoved.

Its spokesman is Paul Cousins.

PAUL COUSINS: Any industry that runs off the airline industry as such, we certainly do have
sympathies for the situations that have occurred.

ANNIE GUEST: Are you prepared to accept any of the responsibility that the tourism industry seems
to be sheeting to you and Qantas for creating what it calls further uncertainty for tourism
operators?

PAUL COUSINS: We feel that Qantas has decided that three per cent is the only thing it is willing
to accept and so we really have to do what we are allowed to do under the law and that is carry out
protected industrial action to further our EBA push for five per cent.

ANNIE GUEST: It has ruled that out. How much longer are your members prepared to continue their
action before compromising on the five per cent demand?

PAUL COUSINS: The members are very strong. They support our action. We believe that the Australian
public understands.

ANNIE GUEST: No-one from Qantas was available for an interview this morning.

TANYA NOLAN: Annie Guest in Brisbane.